Palm-sized Zotac mini PC combines Core i7 CPU with mSATA RAID

Zotac was building mini PCs before it was cool. It's never offered one quite as small and as powerful as the Zbox Nano ID65, though. This palm-sized PC is equipped with an ultrabook-class Core i7-3537U processor from the Ivy Bridge generation. The chip has dual cores, Hyper-Threading support, and a 3.1GHz peak Turbo speed. If you don't need quite so much pep, the slower Zbox Nano ID64 is available with a Core i5-3337U. Another model, the Zbox Nano ID63, comes with a Core i3-3227U, which is slower still.

All three offerings use the same chassis. Each one can take up to 8GB of DDR3-1600 RAM via a single SO-DIMM slot. A 2.5" drive bay handles storage, and Zotac ships the systems with a nanoRAID adapter that allows two mSATA SSDs to share the single bay. The nanoRAID card appears to rely on multiplexing to graft dual drives to the bay's single 6Gbps SATA connection. We're told Intel's RST software can be used to configure the mSATA SSDs in RAID 0 or 1 arrays.

Despite the diminutive case, the Zbox Nano ID65 and its siblings have plenty of connectivity. Up front, you get fast-charging USB ports and an integrated card reader. Around back, there are four USB 3.0 ports, dual digital display outs, and a Gigabit Ethernet jack. 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 are supported, of course. Zotac doesn't include a remote with these particular models, but it does throw in a VESA-compatible mounting bracket.

The Zbox Nano ID65, ID64, and ID63 are each coming out in both barebones and Plus flavors. The barebones variants lack memory and storage, while their Plus counterparts have 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive pre-installed. Here's how the pricing and specifications stack up:

Model Processor Base clock Turbo clock Barebones Plus
ID65 Core i7-3537U 2.0GHz 3.1GHz $510 $590
ID64 Core i5-3337U 1.8GHz 2.7GHz $410 $500
ID63 Core i3-3227U 1.9GHz NA $330 $420

Those prices are largely in line with those of other Ivy-based mini PCs. The Zbox Nano is a little chunkier than comparable systems from Intel and Gigabyte, but it boasts more I/O and isn't restricted to mSATA storage. The ability to add a mechanical notebook drive makes the Nano a little more flexible than its pint-sized peers. You can also choose from a more diverse selection of 2.5" SSDs.

With Haswell ultrabooks just over the horizon, it's hard to get too excited about Ivy-based systems. That said, it's nice to see more systems in the mini PC market. I suspect most casual PC users could get by with something like the Zbox Nano ID65 as their primary desktop. Gamers should steer clear, though, given the lack of discrete graphics options.

You can check out more pictures of the ID65 in the gallery below.

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